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Photos by Chris Casella
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Photos by Chris Casella
Photos by Chris Casella

Home Field Advantage

The term “man cave” has always bothered me, but I’ve never really been able to pinpoint exactly why that is. I suppose part of it is because every “man cave” I’ve ever been in was a depressing shrine full of crappy, thrift store memorabilia loosely assembled around the biggest flat screen in the scratch-and-dent section of the local electronics store. To be perfectly honest, I’d prefer to hang out at a decent bar. I don’t care if your “man cave” has received national accolades.

That’s probably why I approve of Jerry Kennedy’s spot, which pretty much secured the adoration of myself and (614) Photo Editor Chris Casella when the secret entrance was revealed behind a bookshelf. We didn’t have to hop over a tray of filthy kitty litter, or a pile of Mrs. Kennedy’s unmentionables. As soon as we started down the stairs, we were greeted by stained glass that signaled we were in no ordinary basement bar.

Of course, Kennedy is no ordinary guy. As a finance manager, he’s got some coin. Don’t worry, he earned it. The dude bought his first house when he was 18 and broke ground on his dream home back when he was a single 27-year-old, and he also cleverly brokered a deal with his wife that she could have control over the house as long as he was free to do as he pleased with the basement, office, and garage.

Those aren’t ordinary, either.

On first glance, the office might appear pretty straight-forward until you realize that he painted the vaulted ceiling of the turret gold—his own Notre Dome, right at home. The garage? Basic setup, too, except it a houses golf cart outfitted with a horn that plays the Irish fight song.

I wasn’t surprised. My editor handed this assignment off on the notion that he’d be sending me, a Buckeye fan, into enemy territory. Kennedy knew his role and was prepared to execute it well—unapologetically obnoxious, peppering me with relentless jabs about Ohio State and the number of Buckeyes who can’t find work outside of hawking used cars, lawn equipment, or insurance.

“How many titles do you guys claim to have today?” he asks. I don’t take the bait. Unlike most Buckeye fans, I only recognize one national title. It doesn’t matter because Kennedy points out the other ones all have asterisks next to them: Woody Hayes was a cheater, so was Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer is the biggest snake we’ve hired yet. The only coach we had who didn’t break the rules was Earle Bruce, and he was an avid gambler who turned Art Schlichter on to the ponies.

As for the one title I acknowledge—last year’s triumph? Tainted, Kennedy says. “Bought and paid for by a selection committee enamored with Ohio State’s massive fan base.” I point out the fact that the Buckeyes pretty much put all other claims to rest when they beat Alabama and Oregon handily, but it doesn’t matter. Kennedy’s armed with piles of statistics to support his argument. TCU got screwed, and Ohio State was well rested after playing a schedule that couldn’t have been any weaker if it had been a prescription for bed rest.

It’s all sports bravado, of course, despite the joy he gets from busting my chops (I mean, it’s not like Notre Dame has won anything of note lately so he’s got to get it somewhere), he’s a good guy who wants to show his guests a good time.

Which usually happens in the aforementioned basement, where, if we’re being honest, he could talk sh*t all day long, and we’d still be hard-pressed to leave.

It’s where the impressive scope of his onsite obsession is most evident—considering he has a bar in his basement. Wait, not impressive, you say? Sure, you’ve seen that before, you say?

No, we mean the “bar” from an actual bar. Not two tap handles and a small service sink. Kennedy has the old bar from the now-closed Claddagh secured to the lowest floor in his home.

Buying a bar at auction was something Kennedy had been trying to do for a while, but usually some celebrity would swoop in at the last minute and outbid him. Finally, after meeting with a client on the north end, Kennedy popped into Claddagh for a beer. The bar, it turns out, was closing due to a ridiculous rent increase. He initially asked about buying some of the fixtures, but after overhearing a conversation between an auctioneer and a Claddagh executive, Kennedy moved in to broker a deal. Claddagh could drag out the process and possibly gross $50,000 at auction over a three-month period, or they could take a $25,000 check from Kennedy and have the entire bar out of their hair in a couple of weeks. They took his deal, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except it’s not. Claddagh, it turns out, sources its décor from antique pickers in Ireland. Some of the stuff is relatively cheap, but there are some really nice items in there. Kennedy found this out as he sorted through the goodies and shipped the items he didn’t want to an antique auction in Springfield. The décor alone has netted him over 10 grand and there’s still stuff on the block.

The rest of Kennedy’s expenses were covered when he unloaded the kitchen and bar fixtures he simply didn’t have room for.

Kennedy has a fully operational bar, complete with a frost plate, custom décor, ornate woodwork, and two flat screens that basically put money in his pocket. Luck of the Irish, indeed! As for accolades, his own personal Claddagh claimed Man Cave of the Year honors in 2014 (mancavesite.org), and a video he put online is a big hit in Ireland.

And the bar passes muster. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d describe the place, but after an hour or three of guys leaning against the granite bar top running off at the mouth on everything from sports to raising kids, I realized that was it: this wasn’t a man cave, it was a legitimate bar. Worthy of even the Irish moniker. Kennedy’s got plenty of charm and luck to retain that credibility.

What else can you say when you spend three and a half hours doing a job that should have taken 40 minutes? He’s a fun guy, with a fun spot to call his own, and with the luck and charm to pull off what many mortals cannot.

If only he had better taste in football teams.

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